Archive | August, 2012

Down at t’Mill

31 Aug

I love September because it’s when all the Autumn/Winter homes collections come out, and I can lust after all the new things in the shops. I’ll be sharing some of the best stuff with you over the next few weeks, and today I’m going to kick off with one of my favourite places to bag a bargain – Dunelm Mill (stores nationwide and online at www.Dunelm-mill.co.uk).

The best thing to buy at t’Mill is… Cushions. Regular readers will know I’m a little bit obsessed with them, and Dunelm not only has a huge selection, but they’re mega cheap, particularly as there’s a 30% off offer on at the moment. My picks of the new crop are the quirky Sea Urchins cushion, currently just £2.49 (usually £3.99); the fun Cassette Tapes cushion, £5.99 (a hit with boys); andthis pretty Flower Meadow cushion, currently on offer at £2.49 (usually £3.99).

Can’t decide which one you like best? Lots of their cushions are on a ‘buy five for £10’ promotion right now – cushion craziness!

This Autumn though, I might need an even bigger shopping basket than usual because Dunelm also have some cracking other new accessories coming to stores and online in the next few weeks. Check out all the cute bits and bobs in these photos (above and below). They’re all from Dunelm and they’re all surprisingly bargainous – for example, the cute ceramic owl above is just £3.99.

Race you to the shops!

In for a penny, in for a pound

29 Aug

Every bargain hunter knows pound shops are a fantastic place to go for cheap stationery, gardening bits, kitchen stuff and cleaning kit. I often get bathroom essentials like toothpaste and shampoo there too, but I’d never really looked at the other beauty stuff.
Until Monday in Poundland, that is, when I found myself loading up my basket…

My haul included a cute Japanese wasbag; geisha and Russian doll nail file, tweezer and mirror sets (perfect for Christmas stockings); nail wraps; crackle nail polish; Hello Kitty plasters (more fun than plain ones); enough makeup sponges to last for five years; a Stila makeup compact; some zingy shampoo and conditioner; and a shower gel that looks spooking similar to one made by chic brand Philosophy. And how much did all  this cost? Just £1 per item. Brilliant.

So, next time you’re in the pound shop (or even better, the 99p shop), don’t just make a beeline for the cheap padded envelopes -although  you should definitely buy some of those too, having seen how much the Post Office charges for them – check out the beautiful bargains as well.

Put a lid on it

24 Aug

Everyone needs some small Tupperware containers in their lives.

Since I was given a set of four cute nesting tubs with lids from Paperchase, I’ve used them constantly – for taking biscuits or snacks to work; holding loose change; taking face cream away in on holiday; storing herbs in the kitchen; and providing hours of entertainment for visiting children (who love stacking them inside each other then taking them apart again). In fact, they’re so useful I’ve bought another pack.

Aside from all this though, they just look cute!

Paperchase bring out new designs all the time, and they cost £7 for a set of four instore or at www.paperchase.co.uk.

My favourites at the mo? The fab London Underground map set “All Change” (above); the abstract creatures of “Cheeky Chops”; the passport stamp-inspired “Stamps” and for kids (both big and little) the lozenge-shaped “Sunshine Holiday” (all below).

PS: If you like these, you’ll also love the Bright Mini Food Boxes by Rice, just £6.25 for a pack of 12 from http://www.nettlegreen.co.uk – perfect for transporting snacks.

It’s curtains for you

22 Aug

Today’s entry comes courtesy of my friend Rosie* – the minute I saw it, I just had to share it with you.

Called the “Social Shower Curtain”, it’s a shower curtain that looks like a Facebook page. There’s a clear window for you to peek through (as Rosie is so kindly demonstrating, above) where the photo would go; and lots of funny status updates (eg: “Shower Curtain is in a relationship with Limescale”). It’s just £11.10 at www.amazon.co.uk – a total bargain for something so genius.

I think the reason I like it so much is that it’s far more exciting than the classic, tasteful shower curtains most people have (and I include myself in this. I have a classy grey spotty one from John Lewis).

So, I’ve done a bit of digging and come up with some other fun/silly shower curtains in an attempt to brighten up your mornings. And the good news is, there’s no need to (ahem) splash out loads of cash – they’re all really reasonable.

Below, in order, are: the Transport for London Underground Map shower curtain, £31.99; the BlissHome Goldfish shower curtain, £16.50; the Croydex World Map shower curtain, £15.48; the Spirella Fish shower curtain, £12.88; the Gedy Penguin shower curtain, £4.99; and the Shadow of the Duck shower curtain, £12.11 – all from http://www.amazon.co.uk. Plus, the Cityscape shower curtain, £15.99 from Marks & Spencer (www.marksandspencer.com) and the Walk the Plank shower curtain, £20 from John Lewis (www.johnlewis.com), which not only has friendly, bright-coloured whales on, but it’s machine-washable too, to keep pesky mould at bay.

*The lovely Rosie works for Cosmopolitan magazine (UK) – you can follow her on Twitter: @Mullies

 

Yes We Canister!

20 Aug

I know Orla Kiely’s retro prints are everywhere, but I still like ’em. I’m hankering after the stem duvet set for my bedroom and I love the ceramic storage jars, below – a row would look amazing in my kitchen.

However, as is often the case with things I lust after, they’re not cheap. At £20 minimum for the smaller ceramic jars (at John Lewis and Heals), I’m not likely to realise my dream any time soon.

But that’s okay, cos I’ve just found these new ceramic canisters (above). With a wooden lid and a very Orla kiely-esque retro print, they’re just £5 each from Matalan (instore and online now  from www.matalan.co.uk). So, you could buy four for the price of one Kiely jar!

I’m planning to do just that – and I won’t just confine them to the kitchen. I reckon they’d look nice in a living room to hold bits and bobs like stamps and keys; or on a bedroom shelf or dressing table to hold hair bobbles, safety pins and buttons. What would you do with yours?

Heyyyy, macaroon-a!

17 Aug

Sometimes in life you fancy more than a biscuit, but you don’t want to go the whole hog and eat a large wodge of cake. Step forward my absolute favourite treat – the coconut macaroon. A proper old skool recipe (they were invented by monks in the 1500s, fact fans), they’re a tasty, good-sized dollop of coconut and ground almonds, baked so they’re golden but still squishy.

Want to try ’em? Mrs Crimble’s makes the best macaroons going. I used to opt for their version that’s half-dipped in dark chocolate, but now I’ve got a new addiction: Mrs Crimble’s Cranberry Macaroons, which are, as you’d imagine, macaroons studded with yummy cranberries.

What’s more, they’ve been specially created to make money for Breast Cancer Campaign (they’re pink – see what they’ve done there), 10p from the sale of each £1.49 packet goes to charity, with the aim that Mrs Crimble’s will have donated at least £25K by the end of the year. So you can feel all self-righteous while you’re stuffing your face.

And if you feel like being generous, Mrs Crimble’s have launched a campaign to Share The Love – they’re going to send out 1,000 packets of goodies to deserving people nationwide every month. You can nominate anyone you like to receive a treat – just enter their details at the excellently-named website, http://www.letsbakelove.com. It only takes a minute, and means your friends and family can stuff their faces too, for free. Hooray!

Gorillas in the whisk

15 Aug

As a student, living on cheese toasties, all I needed in the way of kitchen accessories was a knife and my trusty toasted sandwich maker. Since then, I’ve widened my tastes a bit and have slowly gathered a range of handy kitchen gadgets, including the famous Onion Goggles (see my post: ‘Don’t cry for me, onion peeler’ from earlier on in the year).

Weirdly though, a good whisk has been the only thing I haven’t invested in. That might be because as gadgets go, well, they’re a bit on the boring side. But now, thanks to this cheeky little monkey above (I know, I know, as my dad is always telling me, gorillas are officially apes), that’s about to change. How cute is he?!

Called the Kitchen Kong whisk, he’s £12.95 from http://www.follyhome.co.uk, £12.99 from http://www.spoiltrottengifts.co.uk. Alternatively, Lakeland (www.lakeland.co.uk) will be selling them from this Autumn.

Bright blue monkeys not your thing? There aren’t many ‘exciting’ whisks out there, but I have found this cleverly designed beater (immediately below) by Ding3000 for Norman Copenhagen, currently £9 (rrp £12) at www.royaldesign.co.uk. When it’s not in use, you slide the little coloured cuff to the bottom to keep the whisking bits in check, and to keep your kitchen drawers tidy.

And kitchen gadget gurus Kuhn Rikon make a lovely range of whisks with rainbow coloured silicone wires (below is the Tornado, left, and the Butterfly, right). You can buy them all over the web, but http://www.amazon.co.uk has the Tornado for £10 and the Butterfly for £11. I think you’ll find it hard to, ahem, beat them on price!

Bright here, bright now

13 Aug

My kitchen is having a facelift. We’re chucking out the chintzy tiles and textured yellow wallpaper and going for white and grey instead. Not only will it look bigger and cleaner, but we can accessorise with as many bright colours as we like.

Having said that, we’re on a budget tighter than an Olympic speed cyclist’s shorts since discovering rising damp in the walls. Any leftover cash is now earmarked to pay for a new damp course. How glamorous.

Still, there are plenty of bargains to be had, even when it comes to bigger pieces such as electricals.

My dream kettle and toaster combo, for example, would be from Kenwood’s gorgeous KMix Boutique range, above. Available in colour-popping blue/teal, sunshine yellow, grass green or fuchsia (above; also in orange, magenta/purple, cream and black), they cost £35 to £60 at www.amazon.co.uk and John Lewis, depending on size and colour.

However, while they’re not extortionate, they’re not exactly cheap. So, I’ve done some research. And it turns out you can buy some lovely bright electrical kitchen goods for pretty much peanuts.

Dunelm Mill’s great Spectrum range, directly below, for example, includes teal or pinky-purple kettles for £24.99 and toasters for £29.99 each. Sainsbury’s have funky silver and lime or cherry toasters for an impressive £19.99 each; while Wilkinsons (www.wilkinsonplus.com) have a teally unusual teal microwave for £45 and a line kettle for just £15. Finally, Next’s range includes a kettle and toaster combo, £45 for the pair and a microwave for £65, all available in lime (bottom), bright red or plum/purple. Tasty!

Just another brick in the wall

10 Aug

If you live with anyone else – whether that’s a partner, friend or even your mum, you’ll know how hard it can be to choose stuff for the home that you all agree on. My husband and I are like that about wallpapering our bedroom. We had it replastered over a year ago, and the wall behind our bed stays stubbornly blank, while a small tower of paper samples builds up on the chest of drawers next to it.

Then I had a breakthrough. I spotted the new Colours Woodland wallpaper from B&Q, above. Paste it up and it looks like your wall is clad in hip, weathered , Scandi-style timber. It’s a bold look – best suited to just one feature wall – but surprisingly, we both love it!

What’s more, this designer effect costs just £14 a roll! It’s an absolute bargain considering most fancy wallpapers cost at least £50 per roll these days.

And looking around, optical illusion papers like this are everywhere this Autumn/Winter. B&Q also have a cool “instant library” wallpaper (below, with red/black chair) depicting shelves of books (which would work well in a living room or study) for £19.98 per roll; Next sell wood panels too, as well as a brick effect (great for a kitchen or dining room) and bookshelves, all for 15 per roll (panels and bricks below);  while www.wallpaperdirect.co.uk have a plethora of designs (check out the new ‘Serendipity’ collection, bottom two pix), panels, multicoloured bookshelves and even a pebbledash print, all at £28-£34.95 per roll.

I think they’re wonderwall – sorry – wonderful. And for once, my other half agrees. Maybe yours will too?

Shower power

8 Aug

Regular readers will know I don’t usually blog about ‘boring’ functional items, or things that aren’t bargainous, but I’m making an exception today for a gadget that has revolutionised my life…

Last year, I got a new dream bathroom. It has big white brick-style tiles, modern fittings, a charcoal grey floor, aqua walls and an over-bath shower that you don’t have to hold while you use it (an improvement on my old one!). The only thing is, you can’t live your life as if you’re in a showhome. I have loads of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles that were not only cluttering up the bath, but encouraging mould to grow on the new grouting. Hmmn.

I didn’t want to drill holes in the new tiles, and I knew from experience that most permanent metal basket-type fittings go rusty within weeks, so I tried suction-cup ones instead. When the second cheap one in a row predictably went rusty and then fell down noisily in the middle of the night, I broke the habit of a lifetime and went upmarket.

The resulting purchase was a Simplehuman Telescopic Shower Caddy. It’s the Rolls Royce of shower storage – made of quality stainless steel with an impressive five-year anti-rust guarantee, it fits in almost any shower or bath. There are three good-sized baskets you can position anywhere you like, plus a razor holder, hook for toothbrushes/flannels, soap well and even two cunning holes to hold shampoo bottles upside down so that you can drain the last dregs from them.

It’s sturdy, practical, easy to fit and does the job perfectly. The only downside? It costs £99 (from Lakeland or Amazon.co.uk). Eeeek. However, when you think how many cheaper baskets and caddies I’d have bought over the five years this one is guaranteed for, it probably works out as a bargain in the end. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Natural Habitat

6 Aug

I have to confess, I haven’t been in Habitat for a while. It’s always had nice stuff, it’s just that it’s fairly expensive stuff, and you guys know me – I’m all about the bargains.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see this fab nest of occasional tables from their new collection. Made of good quality steel and solid oak, the nest includes tables in mustard yellow, sky blue and the brilliantly-named Airforce blue, and are a very reasonable £70 for the set of three. The nest is also available in white or white/greys.

Alternatively, you can buy single Kilo occasional tables in green, white, red, blue, black, wine or orange for £25 each (below).

And while we’re on the subject, I spotted a couple of other little gems too. The retro-look Herbert spice jars (which could hold anything really, from earrings to keys to cotton buds) are £4 each (also below); while the versatile Macadam folding chairs – an original Habitat design from the Seventies – come in hot pink, white, blue, black or silver and cost just £10 each (bottom). Wow. That’s so cheap I think I need to sit down!

Open the door, get on the floor, everybody buy this dinosaur!

3 Aug

You don’t have to be a little kid to love dinosaurs – big kids love them too. For five years, I was lucky enough to live just a few minutes walk from the famous dinosaurs in Crystal Palace park (below). The huge, lifesize, fibreglass beasties were built in the late 1800s by the Victorians, when scientists still hadn’t worked out exactly what different species really looked like. As a result, they seem quite sweet and friendly, and everyone who goes to see them falls in love with them.

So, when I saw the gorgeous corduroy Steggy the Stegosaurus (top), above, I had to get him for my son, Sam. And I reckon he and his other friends from the “AAAH! Dinosaurs” range by top German soft toy company Gund, would make an amazing present for any dino fan. Choose from Tristan the T-Rex, Terry the Pterodactyl, Adam the Ankylosaurus, Trevor the Triceratops or the brilliantly-named Bret the Brontosaurus.

They’re an impressive 40cm tall/wide, and cost £15.90 each from http://www.delveswoodbears.co.uk (plus free P&P) or £14.45 (plus £1.99 P&P) from http://www.teddybearfriends.co.uk.

Word up!

1 Aug

Do I need to spell it out? I’ve just discovered www.theletteroom.com and I think it’s font-tastic!

The site sells 3D letters in every size, colour, typeface and material imaginable (from wood and plastic to metal and even light-up neon); plus cute accessories decorated with initials, and personalised word-y prints.

The letters cost from just £3.75 each (for the bright wooden versions), meaning you can go minimalist with your favourite initial on a mantlepiece or shelf; or buy several and get creative on a bigger scale. How about a row of Zs above a bed; a colourful “Splash” in the bathroom; or even a whole alphabet of different fonts on a plain wall?

PS: I’ve written a piece for Look magazine this week all about using letters as wall art. And you can get 15% off at http://www.theletteroom.com too! Simply enter code LOOK at the online checkout between now and 7th August.

 

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